What does it mean to be emotionally numb? Are you showing signs that you’re dealing with it? If so, what can you do to battle it and have a better life?
If you have never dealt with the feeling of being emotionally numb, it can be nearly impossible to describe. It comes in many forms and can be linked to a romantic relationship, familial relationships, or even all your personal interactions.
Being emotionally numb is similar to depression because you exhibit a lack of interest, engagement, and focus. Emotional numbness can lead to other issues, including struggling to communicate with others.
Now, be aware of that fact that becoming emotionally numb can be very serious. If it is brought on by a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, see a licensed professional to ensure you are dealing with it in the most beneficial way.
But, aside from that, being emotionally numb can be singled out to one relationship or part of your life. In these situations, it can be brought on by emotional pain, stress, or a repeated pattern of emotions.
What does it mean to be emotionally numb?
An emotionally numb state of mind is pretty much the exact opposite of what you normally feel. You know how it feels to be hurt by someone. You know how it feels to be pissed when someone cuts you off. And, you know how it feels to be let down and disappointed.
Becoming emotionally numb takes all of that away. Your reactions to things that would normally provide insight just don’t.
Your interest level in things you used to love may cease entirely. Even your desire to be involved in outings and events may go away. You may even find yourself putting up with things you never would have in the past because you don’t care.
For me, becoming emotionally numb slashed through my life during a long on and off relationship. I had been cheated on and hurt so many times by the same person, I just stopped reacting.
I didn’t get mad or cry or even confront him. Instead, I just let it be and stayed. Sure, I could have moved on, but I was so stuck in that state of being emotionally numb it was almost easier to feel nothing than take a risk.
Even once I moved on from that relationship, repeatedly being ghosted can cause you to turn emotionally numb in all aspects of dating. Now, this is only a minor example of emotional numbness.
It can be so severe you feel detached from your body and your life. You can feel like your life is moving around you.
The clearest signs to know if you’re becoming emotionally numb
It can be hard to determine whether or not you are turning emotionally numb because it is a lack of feeling. It becomes a tedious way to live. You will be living your life and going about your routine but feel indifferent to things.
Rather than distaste for your life and experiences, you feel dull or unconcerned. It is as if you are on autopilot. And once that begins it can be hard to identify and crawl your way out.
The first step? Spot the signs you’re becoming emotionally numb and take steps to combat it.
#1 You consider yourself to have “thick skin.” Do you know how people in the entertainment industry refer to themselves as growing a thick skin to face rejection? Well, this is the real life version.
If you tell people or yourself that you have a thick skin or are tough, it may be due to becoming emotionally numb. This is something toxic masculinity has led to for many men that grew up being told not to cry or show emotions.
Referring to yourself as manly or tough may just be a mask for emotional numbness brought on by punishment or repetitive lessons.
#2 You’ve been abused. Whether you have been abused mentally, emotionally, or physically in the past or present, becoming emotionally numb is often a result of the trauma. The pain that comes from abuse is so strong it is more than we can handle.
To survive, we shut down so that we no longer feel those bad feelings. But, it causes us to miss out on the good ones.
#3 You’ve endured a trauma. You do not need to have endured repetitive abuse for emotional numbness to take over. One traumatic experience that lasted under five minutes can lead to it.
A sexual assault, witnessing a crime, or even losing a loved one can trigger emotional numbness. This is a hard sign to notice. We push those feelings down so deep, facing them seems impossible. Often, people block those memories out and cannot even remember them because they are so painful.
#4 Your trust has been broken. This is what led to me becoming emotionally numb in dating. I had been lied to so much that I shut down. I was no longer interested in any aspect of dating.
When your trust is broken by someone you care for or even by people you barely know, you lose faith in others and your own judgment. That can be draining, and instead of carrying on, it can be easier in the moment to forgo that risk.
#5 You remain neutral. Emotional numbness does not have to be focused on your relationships but even controversial topics. If a topic you once felt passionate about arises, but now you stay quiet, it can be due to emotional numbness.
A sudden or even gradual disinterest in being involved in conversations or activism could be a sign you are dealing with emotional numbness.
This has been seen in politics recently. Someone that once argued for their beliefs may feel so shut down by the media or the powers that be that they have stopped fighting or even talking about these issues.
#6 You avoid confrontation. Yes, even without emotional numbness, a lot of people feel wildly uncomfortable with any sort of confrontation. But, most of us still engage in arguments with our siblings, roommates, or parents.
Becoming emotionally numb will make even the slightest comment about dirty dishes feel exhausting and not worth it.
#7 You feel foggy. If you struggle with allergies, you may understand feeling foggy. When your eyes are itchy and your sinuses are congested you feel functional, but everything is in a blur. That is how life with emotional numbness can feel.
You are aware of what is happening around you but not to the level you normally are.
#8 Your relationships have suffered. Emotional numbness will make it difficult to actually spot that your relationships have suffered because you may not feel a sad sensation. When you are busy with work and miss out on seeing friends, you miss them.
But when becoming emotionally numb causes you to refrain from your friends and family, you won’t pick up on it right away. In fact, it is your friends and family that point out the change in you. Look out for texts, phone calls, or comments from the people closest to you saying they miss you or asking how you are.
#9 You prefer to be alone. Not only do your relationships suffer when you are dealing with emotional numbness, but you want to be alone because it feels the least exhausting. You won’t have to function in social settings.
You may not even feel lonely when alone, just well, numb.
#10 Strong emotions cause you to break down. It is nearly impossible to completely shut down our emotions as humans. So, when someone who is emotionally numb breaks that wall and lets even the slightest bit of emotion through, it will come in like a tsunami.
You may lose your patience over something small. Or you could burst into tears over something minor. It is as if your emotions were being held back by a dam, but one small crack let an entire wave through.
#11 Physical sickness. When your emotional reflexes cause you to become emotionally numb those feelings will not manifest in a normal or healthy way. But, there is not a box within your mind hiding those feelings away for you.
They are released in some way, and if not through words or tears, they may manifest physically. You could feel nauseous, achy, or worse because those emotions aren’t coming out the way they need to be.
How to battle and overcome the feeling of being emotionally numb
Emotional numbness is not a weakness or sign that you have given up. In fact, the sensation of being emotionally numb is a way for our minds to defend against pain. We shut down to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed, hurt, or traumatized.
Instead of choosing the two most commons options of fight or flight when you are in conflict, you freeze. As understandable as this is, it is wildly unhealthy for your mind, your heart, and your body.
Holding back both the good and bad emotions causes an emotional breakdown not to mention broken relationships. It can also lead to depression and other serious problems. So, any sign of emotional numbness should be reacted to with action.
Practicing mindfulness may seem silly to you, but it is an effective way to realign your mind and body. Yoga and meditation are two wonderful options to help you slowly come to terms with your emotions inside of pushing them down. Find thousands of videos on YouTube to guide you through these practices.
Writing out your thoughts also improves your mind and body connection. Taking your thoughts on the routine of the day and turning them into something physical is cathartic and therapeutic. In time, these notes will go from summarizing your day to responding to your day, and engaging your emotions.
Finally, therapy is the best way to overcome emotional numbness. A licensed professional will not only be able to spot the signs of being emotionally numb, but will likely be able to find the root cause and help you work through it so that you can deal with your emotions in the healthiest way possible.
Therapy is not an admission of weakness. It is you facing your emotions head on with help that will make you stronger.
So, do not just deal with being emotionally numb. Battle it! Then, you can get back to living your life to the fullest.